AT-TUWANI: Villagers successfully plow “lost” land

29 November 2008
AT-TUWANI: Villagers successfully plow “lost” land

[Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal.  Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]

On 21 and 22 November, the villagers of At-Tuwani successfully plowed fields to which Israeli settlers and soldiers had denied them access for as long as nine years.  The villagers, as they do each planting season, organized themselves and their relatives from the nearby town of Yatta to plow and plant the valley of Khoruba with wheat and barley.  Palestinians undertake these plantings in an organized fashion, with large numbers of people, in order to prevent attacks from Israeli settlers.  Settlers from the nearby illegal outpost of Havat Ma'on hope to expand into these areas, and have already taken a small plot of land at the top of Khoruba valley.

This year, after finishing Khoruba valley, the Palestinians moved over to the next valley, Mshaha, which they had effectively had to abandon since 2000.  In the late 1990s, Israeli settlers from the settlement of Ma'on set up an outpost called Havat Ma'on on the large hill overlooking Mshaha Valley.  Harassment and violent attacks by the settlers caused Palestinians to leave the valley and several Palestinian hamlets in the area.  The Israeli authorities later removed the outpost, but settlers relocated to another nearby hill, ensuring that working in the valley remained dangerous for Palestinians.

Settlers from the Havat Ma'on outpost attempted to block the tractors the Palestinians were using to cultivate their land.  However, Palestinians outnumbered the settlers, and the presence of so many Palestinians together persuaded the Israeli soldiers and Israeli police who were present not to interfere with the plowing.  Plowing and planting fields—an important part of the economic life of the area—is also a way of ensuring for another year that ever expanding Israeli settlements will not take over the agricultural land.

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